Spouses often mirror each other's health habits

Oct 03, 2007

If one spouse exercises, quits smoking, stops drinking alcohol, receives a flu shot, or undergoes a cholesterol screening, the other spouse is more likely to do the same, according to a new study in Health Services Research.

“We found that when one spouse improves his or her health behavior, the other spouse was likely to do so as well,” said co-author Jody Sindelar, health economist and public health professor in the Yale School of Public Health. “This was consistent across all the behaviors analyzed and was similar among both males and females.”

Using longitudinal data on 6,072 individuals and their spouses from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers found the changes in spouses’ health habits were most apparent in such behavior as smoking and drinking, which is often spurred by outside cues, and in patient-directed preventive behavior, such as getting a flu shot.

For example, smokers were more than five times more likely to quit smoking if their spouse quit, when controlling for other relevant factors. Similarly, spouses were five times more likely to quit drinking alchol if their partner didn’t drink. The changes were less apparent in clinician-directed preventive behavior, such as obtaining cholesterol screening.

Sindelar and co-author Tracy Falba, M.D., visiting assistant professor at Duke University's Center for Health Policy, Law and Management, said health habits and use of preventive services should be viewed in the context of a family. They said attempts to change behavior may be enhanced, or thwarted, by the behavior of family members, especially spouses. For this reason, they said, intervention programs should include tips about how to get the other spouse involved in exercise or help reduce tobacco cues.

Source: Yale University

Explore further: Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

Related Stories

'Ugly' finding: Unattractive workers suffer more

Jun 19, 2013

People who are considered unattractive are more likely to be belittled and bullied in the workplace, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by a Michigan State University business scholar.

Social security: Fixing the glaring gap for women

May 14, 2012

(Phys.org) -- After a lifetime of lower wages and time out of the labor market for caregiving, women typically receive less from Social Security than men, with millions of widows and women of color falling into poverty in ...

Recommended for you

Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

24 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Occupational morbidity and mortality are elevated across food system industries compared with nonfood system industries, according to a study published online May 12 in the Journal of Occupational an ...

Three issues to consider before selecting EHR

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—Work flow, features and functionality, and technical infrastructure should all be considered in advance of selecting an electronic heath record (EHR) system, according to an article published ...

Research letter: Indoor tanning rates drop among US adults

2 hours ago

Indoor tanning rates dropped among adults from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013, although an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still engage in the practice, which has been linked to increased cancer ...

Stunting remains a challenge in South Africa

3 hours ago

Stunting remains stubbornly persistent in South Africa, despite economic growth, political and social transitions, and national nutritional programmes, says a Wits-led research team.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.